WASHINGTON - Overheard in the press box: "This is the best conversation I've ever witnessed."
On Tuesday, at the United State of Women Summit in Washington D.C., first lady Michelle Obama sat down with Oprah Winfrey to talk men (and not just Obama's main man, Barack). When asked what advice she had for the men in attendance on how they could better support women, Michelle Obama sealed the deal with a simple yet actionable answer: "Be better."
"Be better fathers," Obama said. "Good lord, just be good fathers who love your daughters and are providing a solid example of what it means to be a good man in the world ... Be better husbands. Be a part of your family's life."
"Do the dishes. Don't 'babysit' your children. You don't babysit your children. Be engaged, don't just think going to work and coming home makes you a man. ... Be a better employer. When you are sitting in a seat of power at a table of any kind, and you look around and you just see you and a bunch of men, at the table or on a gold course making deals, and you allow that to happen, and you're okay with that, be better. Be better."
Her answer was followed by an eruption of applause.
According to Obama, what women can do is to stop substituting the concept of bravery for basic self-value; instead, ignore the haters and spend that time getting to know themselves, getting to like themselves, and the pay off-will come in an understanding of their own worth. It's not bravery, she said; it's refusing to be taken advantage of.
And men, in every role in which they relate to — and partner with — women can, in turn, stop taking advantage. It's as simple as that. Because, as Michelle pointed out, men "don't have to balance anything. Men don't have to do it all." Women are held to unrealistically high expectations, made to feel like failures if they don't meet them. No one gets to "have it all," she said; instead, people compromise — and if you know who you are, it's easier to do what you want.